Grim oop North?

I have been in communications for for 35 years and a PR agency for 22 of those years, so there is little in the way of Ad Fab bollocks,  pretentious nonsense and plain common sense dressed up as earth shattering and internet breaking, that takes me by surprise any more. But an article by the Chief Strategy Officer of O&M in Campaign magazine this week had me alternatively rolling around laughing and rolling my eyes in despair. blog

His analysis – that  Brexit was a shock to the London and metropolitan establishment, and that increasingly the opinion elite are out of touch  with what people outside South West and North London (or the Groucho Club) are thinking and experiencing – is correct.

I heard similar from senior editors at The Economist a few weeks back. But “planning in the wild”, getting “out there” and sticking nice middle class planners on trains to Brexit centres like Boston, Lincs, to Oldham and – bizarrely – The Isle of Man (?! I could fix them up with a few insightful chats in Salford) to listen to “real people” (argh! All people are “real”, it’s just some experience life more real than others)  harks back to some Evelyn Waugh-esque jaunt to see how the peasants live.

During my time I have been lucky enough to work with some great insights strategists like Deborah Mattinson of Britain Thinks, and the late great Phillip Gould, who spent years listening respectfully to people across Britain on why they had fallen out of love with Labour.  Not an away day to Ormskirk for Jeremy and Jemima from the planning department. I assume his next strategy is to lock his team in a room to watch back to back episodes of “Coronation Street”, eyelids clamped open Clockwork Orange style but with flat whites on tap for survival. Rather than just get out of the Groucho and the office and go talk to “real” people in seemingly alien towns and social groups, maybe his “chief strategy” should be to actually hire some of them into his bloody team! Oh and buy them a copy of “Everytown” by Julian Baggini, much cheaper than a first class Virgin Rail ticket. And maybe open up offices outside London. If there was ever a wake up call to the need for greater diversity in PR and marketing, it’s this well meaning but facile field trip initiative. (By chance I am working on a story of an academic anthropologist who gets sent from his comfortable university surroundings to live with ordinary disadvantaged people in a northern inner city. Thanks to the O&M article I have even more black comic fodder as source material.)

Eurobest

Had an interesting experience at the Eurobest Festival of European Creativity, the European arm of the Cannes Lions Festival, recently in Rome. I was hosting an ‘in conversation’ session with economist and broadcaster Dr Noreena Hertz on our work together and her research on Gen K (or Gen Z – 14-21 year olds). Noreena spoke with insight and eloquence on the difference between this generation and their slightly older Millenial brothers and sisters (see www.webershandwick.co.uk for more details on our Gen K insights work).eurobest2 High on her agenda was GenK’s fear of debt, and very different relationship with brands.

Literally the next session after was on another generational issue, where my IPG colleague Nicky Bullard, chair and CCO of MRM-Meteorite, spoke passionately on “Ageism, our shocking idiotic prejudice.” She kicked off with a series of short films from multi-award-winning advertising creative gurus saying “you won’t hire me”, because they were over sixty.

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Then, to make her point to the largely millennial audience, she got us all to stand up.
Then she got everyone in the audience who were under thirty to sit down. A number did. Then she got everyone under forty to sit down. The majority did. Then she got everyone under fifty to sit down. About a dozen of us were left standing. Then she got everyone under fifty five to sit down. Yours truly was the last man or woman standing – though looking round I could tell I wasn’t the only one over fifty five, just that I was the only one with the balls to stand up and admit it!

Nicky’s point wasn’t just the idiocy of disregarding talent and experience, which Sir John Hegarty has written on in Campaign recently. It was also – and this linked back to Noreena and my earlier session on GenK and their fears around debt, financial insecurity and AI stealing their jobs – that in the breathless chase for the young and increasingly financially strapped audience, marketeers were ignoring the fact that one third of tablets are now owned by people over fifty, and within twenty years in the UK the over fifties will control over 75% of the wealth.

Going back to Nicky’s point on the waste of creative skills and experience, she is setting up what she calls The Cross Project, to have older creatives who would otherwise be sacrificed on the alter of youth mentor young entrants to the marketing industry, while those young entrants mentor their older partners in new social media developments and strategies. Perfect synergy.

I have written before on my strong support for reverse mentoring, going back to when Twitter was first launched and I got the youngest member of our then fledgling social media team to mentor me in engaging on SoMe.

Full praise to Nicky for her project and for speaking out on another aspect of the diversity debate raging within advertising and marketing.

Back to the future?

katniss_everdeenI talked to a class of final year PR students this week. As I was setting up I heard one girl wail “Trump, Putin, we’re all going to die!”

She was 21. A first year Gen Z-der so to speak.

As you might have read, my firm has partnered with the wonderful Dr Noreena Hertz to bring greater insights into this circa 16-21 year old demographic – that Noreena has dubbed Gen K (for Katniss)  – to clients. Many in marketing seem to think they are just younger and lower paid Millennials. Big mistake.

While many Millennials had their early life experience forged in pre-financial crash times, Gen Z/K have grown up with global financial, political and security concerns, and have come of age in the “post truth politics” world of Trump, Corbyn, Farage, Le Pen, with ISIS, Russian foreign policy and AI threatening their todays and tomorrows.

I told her that, bizarrely, she had more in common with people like me who grew up in the seventies that those just a decade older. We joined young CND, marched with Rock Against Racism, worried about the A bomb and the IRA bomb, listened to dole queue handmade rock. In that, Gen Z/K might look at their Millennial colleagues and older kin much as we former punks once looked at the hippies.

Yet another Bowie blog

Soz. But I just started reading Paul Morley’s new biog of Bowie – subtitle “How David Bowie made a world of difference” – and I was struck by a line in his expansive preface: “everyone has their own David Bowie. So many Bowie’s: how do you keep up with them …as he constantly, provocatively moves somewhere else and becomes someone else?”

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My David Bowie was – is – the key creative influence all my teenage and adult life. From mid teens hair style’s to being influenced by “Low” in my ‘later years’ to buy a synthesiser and start to create tonal landscapes.

But the most intensive “My David Bowie” period was my early to late teens, when two musical and cultural influences collided in a blaze of colour, creativity, attitude and noise – Bowie and punk.

(Ironically, as a wannabe punk poet who would clamber on stage between sets at campus gigs and rant angry verse at the bemused students, I penned a ditty called “I hate Paul Morley”. In my late teens my heart was set on music journalism, a Northerner freshly arrived in London penning (unpaid) reviews of London gigs by Northern bands for the NME. Then Paul swept in and made a living doing just that.)

My first memory was Bowie as the soundtrack to an early passion and enduring fascination with the Space Race. As I sat up with my mum to watch grainy footage of the first lunar landing, “Space Oddity” was the soundtrack, though it didn’t become a hit until later.

When his early albums came out I was defying my friends carrying Led Zep albums under their arms and was donning my mum’s fur jacket and playing air guitar to rock & roll pixie Marc Bolan. Then I sat with my family for the Thursday evening “Top of the Pops” ritual (my dad only joined us so he could shout “he looks like a bloody woman!” at the screen periodically) and there was Bowie, arm around Mick Ronson, in a sparkly jump suit singing “Starman”. Then I bought “Ziggy Stardust”. And My David Bowie had arrived. It was going to be great!

“Pin ups” introduced me to a wealth of sixties mod and psychedelia songs I had a missed being too busy with playing football and Action Man in that decade.

“Aladdin Sane” was so-so and then “Diamond Dogs” hit the teenage dystopian spot.

Then the change of direction that was “Young Americans” changed my direction as well. It got me listening to – real – black music and funk and buying “Blues & Soul” magazine. I changed my clothes in favour of Northern Soul baggy pants and penny round collars, started looking old enough to sneak in underage into Manchester clubs where soul classics were spun alongside Bowie and Roxy Music. I even tried to copy his hairstyle, sleeping with my quiff in one of my mum’s hair rollers and trying to dye it blonde. Sadly I didn’t know then that hair bleach and domestic bleach were not the same thing, used Domestos, and most of my quiff shrivelled and fell out.

Then he went to Berlin and I went to college. “Heroes” became my theme song and “Low” the soundtrack to new musical directions and investigations. They still go on. He even influenced how I portrayed my sexuality. Solidly straight, I affected bi-sexuality because Bowie had said it’s ok. My ladies squash team captain girlfriend was so worried she bought me Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” , no doubt to cure me of all this Bowie, Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Clash weirdness.

In my twenties and thirties Bowie and I went our separate ways, with me still resolutely playing his seventies string of albums from time to time. It was talking to Dylan Jones, GQ editor and fellow Bowie obsessive, ten years ago that brought us back together (Dylan has also authored a great Bowie book). By then I was learning to play guitar and keyboards and bought a Bowie songbook to start to deconstruct his song writing for myself. Then I bought the synth. Then Bowie arrived again with a new album, then another, then…

Morley’s book rightly puts Bowie as the key influencer and observer of swirling popular culture over the decades of his and my generation’s life, from the sixties to now. So many Bowie’s, so little time.

 

Douglas Slocombe’s chair

My family spent a few days on the north Norfolk coast recently. One day we went to nearby Burnham Market for lunch. The little town is a bit like Islington on Sea in terms of the shops and visitors. Turns out that every Monday during the summer they have an open air auction on the green. As I wandered around the second hand bikes and lawn mowers, and boxes of bric a brac being eyed up by a throng of car boot sellers, I came across a couple of old canvas director’s chairs folded and leaning unloved against a tree in the shade. Opening up the least worm eaten and rickety, I saw the following legend carefully hand written in fading letters:

Douglas Slocombe, Lighting Cameraman.2C7ABBBF-159A-416D-9BFD-9C68EEDD43BB

As a cinematography nerd in my teens, I knew exactly who he was, and assumed others would as well. I was excited.

Douglas Slocombe was one of the great British film makers, not a director but a cameraman associated with a long list of award winning movies, from the Ealing comedies of the fifties, through classics like The Great Gatsby, The Italian Job, The Servant and The Music Lovers, through to the Indiana Jones movies. He won multiple BAFTA’s and other British and American cinematography awards, and was thrice nominated for an Academy Award. The son of a journalist, he had originally planned to be a news photographer and ended up a film maker for The Ministry of Information, making wartime documentaries. His work on British and American movies over four decades marked him out as one of the greats of cinema. He died in February earlier this year, aged 103.

Anyone like me who grew up marvelling at the visual imagery of Stanley Kubrick, David Lean and Ken Russell, and wanting to be a visual story teller themselves, knew Slocombe’s name. I assumed some of the well heeled Burnham Market holiday folks on the green would too and prepared for a bidding war with some holidaying humanities professor.

In the end barely anyone (“who the blazes was he?” remarked one auction regular) gave the chair or it’s fading writing a second glance and I got it uncontested for a fiver. It sits in my study amongst shelves of books on cinema, art and photography.

In the days of Hollywood remakes of film classics, franchise movie series, Instagram and Vine, it would be sad to forget a British pioneer of cinematic art.

The business of business

I know of a PR agency leader who walked into a training session for a group of rising star staff and asked them who had read their client’s annual report and who knew their client’s share price that morning. Few if any hands went up. They were all experts in the PR needs of their client, but didn’t really know the business of their client’s business.

Understanding of the business of business varies across the PR and marketing mix. Advertising has always been close to the business issues of their clients, and their relationships have been at CEO and CMO level. As the PR consulting industry pivots more to the marketers who focus on ROI and selling stuff, and moves up the ladder within business (well over half of Fortune 500 CCO’s in EMEA now report directly to the CEO and/or main board) we too need staff who are hungry to learn about business as well as PR services for business.

Some of the PR degree courses I have spoken at – Greenwich University, Leeds Beckett are examples – are rightly embedded in the business schools. Others are allied to journalism studies or humanities departments. But they should all give their students an understanding of business as well as PR theory and techniques. As increasingly people go straight from university into PR agencies without touching in-house roles, it is incumbent on agencies to make sure they address this.

One approach we are taking at Weber Shandwick, via our colleagues at Prime in Sweden, is our Trusted Advisor training programme, which has former CEO’s and CMO’s deliver deep insights into business life, so the communications we deliver are closely attuned to the business goals of the client, as well as their communications objectives. Whether it is protecting the key business asset of reputation, or increasing market share, I always say that firms don’t hire PR agencies because they want PR – they want tangible, measurable business outcomes.

Our top winning campaign at Cannes this year, a Gold Lion winner, was The House of Clicks for property firm Hemnet, a brilliant piece of big data story telling, but the outcomes highlighted were not just the gazillion media impressions globally, they were the creation of a premium new product and market segment.

I have won new clients in the past where part of the onboarding for any consultant or supplier was to go through the same onboarding any staffer would go through about the business and operations of the firm. That might be a day working on a counter or in a fast food firm’s chicken farm, or learning how to effectively deliver parcels for a courier firm. I see less of this today due to time pressures. But it was valuable.

One of our new trainees I spoke with this week did a degree in business and positively chose PR as an aspect of business – a rising discipline within the boardroom – he wanted to focus on as a result of that deep immersion into the world of business. All our staff need to understand business if they are to really partner in their client’s business goals.

On the other side I still see too little focus on communications in management training. CEO’s are as much in the media and social media spotlight as politicians, and are effectively the Chief Communications Officer of their firm. For future CEO’s to think PR was just for the PR department to worry about would be a mistake.

Creativity and contradictions on La Croisette

If you want to read insightful comment on creativity and innovation at Cannes 2016, please read the posts on the Weber Shandwick EMEA blog from my creative colleagues.

If you want to read the random thoughts of a sleep deprived (thanks Daily Mail yacht, ya bastards) old PR lag, read on.

So, my 7th Cannes Festival of Creativity and it was the biggest, baddest, boldest yet. With Health Lions at one end, and the new Entertainment Lions at the other, the festival is creeping into being a mind exploding week and a half of new ideas, creativity, innovation, VR, AR, big data pyrotechnics and great work from every corner of the world and every sector. And rosé. Lots of bloody rosé.

(I arrived and headed as always for the screens in the Work Zone. I had a seven year itch. The PR category was dominated by ad agencies again. Didn’t I see that campaign by another brand and agency just a couple of years ago?  It didn’t last long.)Cannes Lions tweet 2

There was also a welcome increase in the number of clients attending. 3000 is a number I heard, around a quarter of the total attendees. Some old advertising hands apparently resisted this. Like the festival organisers, I welcome it. Creativity and innovation is a partnership with our clients, not something we do to reluctant clients.

Some highlights – and the odd low light – for me:

The Future of Brands – Unilever CMO Keith Weed’s annual lecture is always a highlight, peppered with engaging work, original research and insights into one of the greatest marketing organisations in the world. Watch it online. Not for the first time last week the Persil/Omo “Free the kids” film brought a tear to my jaded eye. His “I to the power of n” proposition is brilliant.

Keith Weed

No blockbuster – there was no apparent (it’s still going on as I write) “Like a Girl” or “Dumb ways to die” category board sweeper but that’s ok. On issues like gender equality, a thousand flowers blooming rather than just one great big one shows how seriously the industry is taking it.

(That said…..I was not the only one in the audience who noted yet again the irony of an industry talking about gender equality as all or majority male advertising creative team after creative team took to the stage. Only one in ten advertising creatives are women. Only one in ten creatives listed on Lions winning advertising work are women. Keith Weed’s own analysis of thousands of ads worldwide shows that 50% of ads stereotype women. Only 3% portrayed women in powerful, leadership roles. 80% of women consumers don’t identify with these ads. Guys – and you usually are guys – this has to change. The most talked about influential on social media at Cannes this year was the brilliant feminist marketing icon Cindy “I blow shit up” Gallop, yet huge swathes of the industry still continue to act like Mad Men in beards and bad denim.)

Creativity counts – every morning at ten am the Cannes Lions folks did a presentation on why creativity was now a more valued business asset than ever. As one client said “you sell more product at higher prices if you are creative”. For a decade now the Cannes Marketeer of the Year company has gone on to see their share price rocket ahead of their peers as a result of their cumulative creative work.

Buzz off – The three buzz words last year were Products, Disruption and Culture. It will be fascinating to see what they are this year but technology innovation and cultural change will be the undercurrents.

Winning is infectious – ten years ago the entire worldwide retail industry combined won one Bronze Lion between them, despite being one of the most consumer facing industries in the world. Last year the sector won 75 Lions for over twenty retail brands from fourteen countries, including a Grand Prix. This year a retail campaign won the PR Grand Prix and John Lewis’ love-struck penguin won big.

Don’t break the Internet – you read so many award entries that claim their campaign “broke the Internet” you wonder how the bloody thing works any more. (I know of only two genuine Internet breakers – Emma Watson’s brilliant UN Women speech and my train company’s crappy wifi. Possibly Kim K’s arse as well I am told.) The PR Jury rightly declared that this sort of hyperbole actually got entries marked down in favour of those that demonstrated measurable business or people impact.

The creative divide – as a perma-worrier about the future for young people including my own kids, a chilling phrase rang in my ears from from one creative commentator; “For so much of life creativity is suppressed. If you are not creative you don’t have a future.” When I was a working class kid growing up in Salford, many of my friends were written off at 11 by the education system or left school at sixteen to go into factory and manual jobs that no longer exist. When you look at our education system today, when you look at the ghettoising of what we used to call working class people (brilliantly documented by Guardian columnist Owen Jones in his book “Chavs”), when we look at the lack of social and racial diversity in the PR industry and other professions, has so much really changed? If every one of us gave at least one non/privileged kid an opportunity to unleash their creativity – through internships, through music and arts projects, by supporting projects from The Media Trust to the Marc Bolan Music Project at his old London school ( these are some of mine), the world would truly be a better place. We are already a world divided by money, power, religion, ideology, war, hate, fear. Let’s not add creativity to the list.

Cannes, Cannes – there are two Cannes. There are the industry moguls on their yachts and the hard working, curious and ideas hungry young (and not so young) creatives. There are the great creative campaigns on gender, sustainability, education, sexual violence, racism and the Millennial Goals , and there are the millions spent by media brands on charter yachts, fine wine, celebrity guests and lavish dinners. There are the gender equality campaigns and campaigners, and there are the girls with long legs and short shorts handing out leaflets at the Palais entrance. As “the thermostat of the world” as Bono called the marketing industry in a past Cannes Lions keynote, Cannes is a world of contradictions. As a New Labour supporter and warrior in the past, I know about trying to reconcile contradictions and not always pulling it off. Hey, you lay out a lavish picnic and the wasps and ants will turn up as well as the hungry children. But the festival itself is a unique showcase of the greatest creative work and minds, the game changing technologies, the criss-cross of culture and conversation.

My advice – forget the expensive A list celebrities, spend some money on sending your brightest young creatives and help them immerse themselves and their colleagues in the work and inspiration that is The Cannes Lions & Festival of Creativity,  Davos in shorts and T shirts.

 

Bowie and Creativity

I have blogged before on this so will try not to repeat myself.

I had the pleasure of hosting Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow in our London offices yesterday, via our support for The Media Trust. The previous night he had written an eloquent and much read and shared blog on “The incredible creative life force that was David Bowie”.

JS Bowie Book (4)

When I heard the news of Bowie’s untimely death early Monday, I was genuinely grief stricken. I felt a bright light in my creative life had gone out. Bowie had been a creative inspiration to me since at 15, sat in the family living room in a grey industrial Northern town, I saw him perform Starman in that epic, life changing four minutes on TOTP. He brought colour, creativity, rebellion into an otherwise largely colourless Britain.

This morning I listened to Hunky Dory, the album on which he first found his creative and lyrical voice (and some great, great songwriting) in the car on the way to the station and cried all the way.

I firmly believe that Bowie should be “canonised” as Patron Saint of creatives.

Just a few of many reasons and how we can learn from his “incredible creative life force”.

Firstly, he soaked up culture like a sponge. From music to dance and theatre, from art to fashion, from film to literature, from mythology to branding.

Secondly, and obviously, he kept innovating and moving forward. He didn’t rest on his laurels. Look at how he ripped up his fabulous creation in Ziggy Stardust at the height of his success and moved on, leaving us gasping in his wake.

Thirdly, he learned from failure and came back even stronger and with greater creativity. After his creative low period in the 1980s he experimented, he failed, but he kept at it and won through.

Fourthly, he inspired. Whether my generation in the grey early seventies, a time of power cuts and three day weeks and political and social strife in bleak urban landscapes, or those just discovering him now through BlackStar and his untimely death.

He was creative to the end. He refused to compromise. He continues to inspire and for me, always will.

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How the “outsiders” upped British creativity in marketing as well as music, literature and film in the 1960′s and ’70s

I am indebted to the brilliant contemporary British historian and storyteller Dominic Sandbrook and his excellent new history of British creative industries, “The Great British Dream Factory” (Allen Lane) for this post on creativity through diversity.

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I, we, talk a lot about diversity in our PR industry. A lot of our focus, rightly, is on greater gender equality. Indeed my firm has just published new research which looks at gender as a new driver of corporate reputation.

In advertising The 3% Conference  – see below – has highlighted that until recently only that tiny percentage of advertising creative directors were women, and now thanks to their campaigning that’s up to 11% and rising. I am also focused on racial and social diversity, the subject of previous blog posts and action by the PRCA, The Taylor Bennett Foundation and others.

Sandbrook highlights a previous case study in the British advertising industry in the 1960s. He notes that at the time agencies were “introverted, conservative, stuffy places dominated by the old officer class”.  Creatively ambitious recruits headed for New York and joined the Mad Men.

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When a young John Hegarty joined his first agency in 1965, he found “the staff consisted of public school educated account men who were trained only to say yes”.  He thought they were good for pouring the perfect G&T and little else.

Compared to their American counterparts, British TV ads were clunky, pedestrian, badly shot, badly acted and often hectoring and lecturing in tone. At the end of the 50′s British ads made up around 20% of TV and cinema entries at Cannes, but won few if any awards.

Within a decade or two, all this had changed. A golden age of British advertising came about, from the bike pushing Hovis boy to the hysterical Smash Martians, from Hamlet cigars soundtracked by Bach to the Sugar Puffs Honey Monster, and most admired of all Hugh Hudson’s surreal “Swimming Pool”.

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From 1974 to 1978, British ads went from winning bugger all at Cannes to dominating the festival, winning half the Golds as well as the top Grand Prix awards.

What changed? Sandbrook sees a crucial element being the rise of the ambitious, creative, post-war generation educated not at Sandhurst and Eton but grammar schools and art colleges (an interesting parallel with the rise of British pop that took America by storm in the 60s, The Beatles, the Stones et al, through to Roxy Music and Mick Jones, Viv Albertine etc in 70′s punk). “As outsiders they were naturally hungry for fame and fortune” notes Sandbrook, “but their ambitions were artistic as well as financial.”

Hegarty was the son of an Irish labourer who attended Hornsey College of Art. Alan Parker, who after advertising went on to direct “Fame”, “Bugsy Malone” and “Mississippi Burning”, was a painter and decorator’s son from North London. Another adman turned movie maker, David Puttnam, was also a grammar school boy outsider.  The Saatchi brothers were the sons of Iraqi Jewish immigrants. Ridley “Bladerunner” Scott went to Stockton on Tees Grammar and Hartlepool College of Art.

They were young, working or lower middle class, creative outsiders. They were the John Lennon’s of commercial visual art. Puttnam has talked about he and his fellow outsiders dreaming of ripping up “the world of privilege and position and place and deference”.

Fast forward to this decade.

The 3% Conference was founded to act on the depressing stat that only 3% of US advertising creative directors were women. “Diversity is the best thing that could ever happen to creativity” declared founder Kat Gordon last year,  talking of advertising being “broken due to a failure of imagination”. There is a growing body of evidence that diversity boosts creativity.

In PR we need to break the self-perpetuating cycle of largely white middle class university graduates who hire yet more white middle class university graduates. As Kat Gordon says; “What can we get from a room full of people in the same situation, validating instead of challenging each other?”

For the golden age of PR, itself rising at Cannes, we need more outsiders.

Links With History

This week I attended the funeral of my neighbour Dick at our West Sussex ancient village church. Dick had reached 95 – a good innings as they say – and until six weeks ago had been a regular sight to us heading off in his car for his morning paper and taking a walk down the lane. It was as much celebration as sadness.

When we got to the church we were handed the order of service. On the front was a picture of our familiar friend, smiling. On the back was a sepia picture of him in his army uniform. It was almost a shock to connect someone we knew to real, world changing history.

Dick had been born in 1920, two years after the end of WW1 and into a Britain struggling to recover from the decimation of a generation. WW2 broke out when he was 19. One of his first jobs was to be stationed in Richmond Park to fend off enemy parachutists who fortunately never materialised. Then he was sent to fight in France and returned with a back full of shrapnel.

We do still have links with WW2 in my family, as do many of us. My mother was six when war broke out, and was evacuated to the Lake District. My grandmother couldn’t bear the separation and after a few months brought her back to Salford. My grandfather built an Anderson Shelter in the back garden. When a German incendiary bomb slid off the roof of a factory opposite and blew their home to shreds, my grandfather’s skills as a builder had saved them.

My eight year old is doing a project on WW2 at school. My mum wrote him a long note on what it was like to be a child in the war, being torn away from family to go live with strangers far away, the air raids while at school, and emerging from the shelter to find possessions ripped and burned. It’s a piece of family history.

To have known someone who had actually fought in the war, these days is rare. I feel our community has lost another important link with history. Later this week I found my eight year old in tears. He said he was sad about Dick and sad that he never got to talk to him about being a soldier in the war he was studying.